Ask The Lawyer

By Debra Roth

Q & A Session – Listing a Foreign Associate on SF-86

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

I am in a long distance relationship with a foreigner, but did not put him down on my SF-86 under the question related to foreign associates, as I did not understand the question correctly. During my personal interview, I asked for clarification and was forthcoming with all details pertaining to my relationship with the person. Will this result in a denial of my clearance because it was not listed initially?

A:

No, it will not definitely result in a loss of a clearance, but it will be a factor to be considered. If unsure on the SF-86, it is better to err on the side of disclosure, or seek expert advice.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

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Q & A Session – Losing a Government Annuity

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

If a federal employee who has worked for the government for over 20 years loses his or her security clearance and is forced to leave the position, will the employee lose his or her FERS or CSRS annuity?

A:

No, not necessarily. The only basis for a federal employee to lose an annuity is a conviction for crimes related to treason, espionage or sabotage. The simple loss of a clearance, without more, is not a basis for losing entitlement to either a FERS or CSRS annuity.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

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Q & A Session – Grade Increase After Minimally Successful Performance Appraisal

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

If a federal employee receives a grade increase to the next career ladder grade immediately following a minimal successful performance appraisal, what action should be taken by management/human resources to address and correct the issue?

A:

The situation you described sounds like a major ball dropping of a well thrown pass. Once an appointment (promotion to a higher grade level) is made by an authorized appointing authority it cannot be taken away from a non-probationary employee without due process. But it sounds like due process and a possible adverse action is in order. You can try to report this to an IG Hotline, but most IG offices will lack the resources to investigate this type of issue.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

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Q & A Session – Forcing Retirement

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

If someone has been with the government for over 25 years but is only in his or her late forties, can the government force the employee to retire due to cut backs in positions?

A:

No one can make you retire. However, it is possible that your position can be abolished, which could subject you to release based on a reduction-in-force. If you are RIFFED, your service makes you eligible for a discontinued service or early retirement.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

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Q & A Session – Termination Because Unable to Complete Training Program

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

I was recently terminated because I was unable to complete the training program for the position I was hired for under the Federal Career Intern Program. I had requested a reasonable accommodation after being diagnosed with a disease. What are my options?

A:

Each case is different. Whether you are entitled to a reasonable accommodation or subjected to discrimination because of your disability can be ascertained eventually by use of the EEO process. You must start this process within 45 days of your termination or by contacting an EEO counselor.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

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Q & A Session – Reporting Sick Leave Fraud

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

How do I anonymously and safely report a fellow employee for suspected sick leave/continuation of pay fraud?

A:

You can file an anonymous complaint online with the U.S.P.S. OIG Investigations Hotline, which receives information from employees, customers and the general public for reporting fraud, waste, and misconduct. To file anonymously, visit: https://www.uspsoig.gov/hotlinenewforms.cfm.

Another option to report suspected fraud or violations relating to any DOL program is through the DOL OIG Hotline at hotline@oig.dol.gov or 1-800-347-3756.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.

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In the season of giving, know federal rules

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During the holiday season, gift giving occurs as a natural part of social relationships. For example, it is not unusual to be invited to a holiday party and to bring a bottle of wine as a gift to the host.

But can a federal employee do that if the party’s host is the boss? The answer is yes — if the bottle of wine is a hospitality customarily provided by the employee to personal friends.

But beware: Subordinates’ gifts to bosses ordinarily are taboo, and a gift such as a bottle of wine at a holiday party, while allowed in some circumstances, could raise questions.

These questions and their answers all come from the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), an independent agency created in 1989 from what had formerly been a part of the Office of Personnel Management. OGE’s gift to federal employees is its detailed and somewhat obtuse (but completely lucid to designated agency ethics officials and most OGE employees) Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch. These standards, found at 5 CFR Part 2635, include a subpart specifically regulating gifts among federal employees.

The general rule is no gifts should be given by employees to supervisors or to employees who earn a larger salary than the gift giver. The prohibition is on both giving and accepting the gift. There is no provision that prohibits a supervisor from giving a gift to a subordinate.

But the general prohibition against gifts to supervisors has exceptions. So, either remember these exceptions or take the default and safe position of no gifts. Or ask your designated agency ethics official for advice. These agency officials are supposed to respond promptly to ethics questions from employees. Put your question and all relevant information in writing — probably e-mail — and you will receive a written answer.

Here are a several examples of gift giving from subordinates to supervisors that OGE, through its regulations, says are permissible.

• If you come back from a vacation at the beach, you may give your supervisor a bag of saltwater taffy purchased on the boardwalk for $8. The gift can only be given occasionally and under circumstances where such gifts are ordinarily exchanged. This gift falls under the less-than-$10-per-occasion and other-than-cash exception to the ban on gift giving to supervisors. Similar occasional gifts include food and refreshments to be shared among several employees in the office and personal hospitality of a type customarily provided by the employee to personal friends. This exception means that you may occasionally bring in cupcakes for those in the office, including the boss, to share, and you may invite your boss to your home for a holiday party.

• Another instance where gift giving to supervisors is allowed is a special, infrequent occasion. Examples are weddings, illness, or the birth or adoption of a child. The gift for each of these occasions should be consistent with a gift you would give to a personal friend who is not a supervisor.

• It also permissible to give a gift to a supervisor when the subordinate-supervisor relationship is ended because the supervisor is retiring, resigning or being reassigned. So a going-away party for the boss accompanied by a party and a gift is allowed.

OGE recognizes that on special, infrequent occasions, employees may want to solicit voluntary nominal contributions from co-workers. This type of solicitation is allowed so long as the amount of the contribution and whether to contribute is voluntary.

One thing the OGE regulations make clear is that Christmas does not qualify as a special, infrequent occasion because it comes once a year. So if the boss gets married or is sick, feel free to contribute to an office collection if you so desire, but give the Christmas tie to your brother-in-law.